New York City FC defeated the Philadelphia Union 3-1 in the first round of the MLS playoffs on Wednesday, allowing NYCFC to move on to the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the third consecutive year.

NYCFC MLS Playoffs
New York City FC advanced in the MLS Playoffs on Wednesday with a 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union in the knockout round. (Image: Dennis Schneidler/USA Today Sports)

NYCFC will now play a two-leg conference semifinal against Atlanta United beginning on November 4.

NYCFC Continues Dominance at Home

New York got off to a fast start at home on Wednesday, as Ismael Tajouri-Shradi opened the scoring just 10 minutes into the match. David Villa added another goal in the 26th minute, and Maxi Moralez made it 3-0 in the second half before Philadelphia was able to grab a late consolation goal.

The match was just the latest example of the dominance NYCFC has enjoyed on its home field, where the club has put up a 13-1-4 record this season.

In Western Conference play, the Portland Timbers survived with just 10 men on the field to beat FC Dallas and advance to the conference semifinals. Diego Valeri scored twice to lead the Timbers attack, including a key goal in the second half that gave Portland a two-goal lead after Larrys Mabiala had been sent off for a foul just outside the penalty box.

That proved to be enough for the Timbers to hold on, as Dallas only managed to get a single goal back off the foot of defender Matt Hedges during a stoppage time scramble.

Portland doesnt yet know which team theyll be playing in the conference semifinals. Depending on how the LAFC vs. Real Salt Lake matchup turns out, Portland could be facing either No. 1 seeded Sporting KC or their traditional northwestern rivals, the Seattle Sounders.

Red Bulls Favored to Win MLS Cup

The MLS playoffs see the top six teams from each conference qualify, with the top two seeds on each side earning an automatic bye to the semifinal round. While the first round consists of single knockout games in which the higher seeds have home field advantage, the conference semifinals and finals are two-leg home-and-home encounters, with the team with the higher aggregate score advancing.

The playoffs culminate in the MLS Cup, which will take place on Dec. 8 at the home of the finalist with the better regular-season record.

While the MLS playoffs have traditionally been fairly wide open, two of the top seeds in the Eastern Conference are seen as the favorites to win a title this year. At Bet365, the New York Red Bulls are an 11/4 top choice to win the MLS Cup. The Red Bulls will face the winner of the DC United vs. Columbus Crew knockout match, which takes place Thursday night.

New York finished with a league best 71 points in the regular season, and are hoping that this team is the one that can finally capture the elusive MLS Cup that the franchise has never been able to win.

We just know this is the best team weve ever had, Red Bulls coach Chris Armas told The New York Times. Thats what were focused on from an optimistic standpoint what weve accomplished, not what we havent accomplished.

Atlanta United (10/3) is also considered a strong contender to win a championship this year, with NYCFC (9/2) and Sporting Kansas City (9/1) following behind.

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